On Ending Blindness

I spent much of last winter working on a story about what it might take to end global blindness. I’m tickled to see the result now on and inside the cover of September’s National Geographic. The four-section story is about determination in the face of tough odds. Here’s a snip from the first section, about gene therapy fashioned by a group led by […]

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The Selfish Gene is a static meme, and that ain’t science

Richard Dawkins’s “The Selfish Gene,” book and meme, is now 40 years old. Has it served its purpose? And how do we talk about whether it has? When I argued not long ago that his ‘selfish-gene’ model obscures richer emerging views of genetics and evolution, the responses ranged from enthusiastic agreement to objections both civil and savage. I naturally […]

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Two Sharp Takes on Mukherjee’s The Gene

Nathaniel Comfort, “Genes Are Overrated”: Mukherjee gives us a Whig history of the gene, told with verve and color, if not scrupulous accuracy. The gene, he tells us, was first described by the Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel, in the mid-19th century. Tragically, no one noticed—not even the great Charles Darwin. “If Darwin had actually read” the reference […]

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Brooke Borel’s strange story about Kevin Folta interviewing himself, among other (mis)adventures

  The Kevin Folta/GMO/Monsanto/Right-to-Know/conflict-of-interest variety show and bazaar — a saga about a food scientist who took $25,000 from Monsanto without disclosing he did so but seems to have thought that was probably more or less okay — just got more bizarre, as Brooke Borel describes in a strange and deftly told story in Buzzfeed. This is conflict-of-interest as tragicomedy. I […]

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James Watson as genetic error

Adam Rutherford addresses James Watson’s attempt to dodge his past: Like all contemporary biologists, my career is largely based on his work. The medal? If I could afford it, I wouldn’t want it. My field, human genetics, was founded by another racist, Francis Galton, who sought to demonstrate white British dominance over the colonies using biometrics. He […]

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